Pothier inches toward return

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:30 AM ET

ARLINGTON, VA. -- Brian Pothier is just now taking baby steps along a long road to recovery from his "fourth or fifth" concussion, suffered when he was hit by the Bruins' Milan Lucic more than 11 months ago.

The Washington defenceman, who was in the Senators organization from 2002-06, skated on Wednesday for the first time since his injury. He was back on the ice again between Washington and Ottawa practices at the Kettler Iceplex yesterday.

"I just floated around," Pothier said of his return to the slippery surface, referring to the casualness of the skate and not a foggy state of mind.

When or if he'll be able to rejoin the Caps roster again, Pothier does not know. But the 31-year-old native of New Bedford, Mass., is certain that he wants to continue on his comeback attempt.

"Probably once a day since I got hurt," Pothier said when asked if he ever ponders retirement. "I've got a wife and kids and at 50, I want to be able to function for them. I want to be able to live life. So yeah, that crosses my mind often.

"I'm not going to make that decision until I have to. I'm not healthy right now, so there's no reason to make a decision. I'm kind of focused on getting healthy, then once I'm on the ice with the team, practising, contact, everything, then I can say all right, what's going to happen now.

"I'm not going to walk away unhealthy. That's just crazy."

Pothier, whose contract still has him making $2.5 million US this season and next, clearly remembers the Jan. 3 incident that shelved him. He was reaching for a slow, rolling puck near the boards when Lucic, who he says is "thicker than he is wide, he's like a big round barrel out there," came rolling his way.

"It was one of those ones that you know you're going to get hit, but you have to try and chip it by the guy," Pothier said. "He just got me shoulder on cheek ... it was a good hit."

The symptom Pothier is trying to erase now has to do with his vision.

"Everything is working, but instead of me seeing quickly, my eyes kind of have to zoom in and then they finally focus," he said. "On the ice, that's obviously going to be a problem.

"I've been seeing an eye therapist who thinks he can really help with different things. The only timetable he's given me is he says he thinks he can help me function on a normal, everyday level in 3-4 months, maybe. That's playing catch in the backyard.

"He says to get me to a high, elite-athlete level it might take up to a year. You don't know. Each case is different.

"It's really just reconstructing and rebooting my brain, pretty much. Getting the signals going in the right directions, getting the information processed properly. It'll come. It just might take a little while."

Pothier, the type of smooth-skating, puck-moving blueliner the Senators covet, certainly didn't see his career taking such a turn.

"You're never prepared for life-changing incidents," he said. "You don't really believe it's going to happen to you. It's in the job description, but you think you're invincible. You don't anticipate having the big injury. You don't go into every game fearing it, but you know it's a possibility."

The possibilities that provide him with extra motivation to get back in the lineup have to do with his surroundings. The Capitals should be a Stanley Cup contender both this season and next. Naturally, Pothier craves to be part of it.

"This team is exciting," he said. "I come in and bug the guys every day. It's a fun atmosphere. You want to be around the guys. This team is young and exciting ... I think, by far, we're the most exciting team in the whole league to watch. Every night, you don't know what's going to happen. Watching Alex himself is crazy. Both of them. Ovie is unbelievable, and then you've got Semin, who I think is the most skilled guy in the league.

"Mike Green is phenomenal. He skates as well as (Scott) Niedermayer does. His skill level is through the roof. I think you'll see in the next few years, he'll be tops in scoring every year, and plus he can be a top shut-down guy because he skates so well.

"We're a good, fun team. To be a part of it would be great."

But he knows the day he rejoins Green and the others is still in the distance. Right now, Pothier's more concerned with green lights, which are his checkpoints along his road to recovery. He needs to see them easily and clearly, then keep moving along without hitting any more potholes.


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